Jan 21, 2013
Campaigning began last Friday for the existence referendum of the Daily Publication Society (DPS), which includes both The McGill Daily and Le Délit. Polling is scheduled to run between Jan. 23 and Jan. 31, when the results will be announced.
The referendum question asks students to support the DPS’s existence, which is established through its Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the university. An MoA details the contractual relationship between a student group or association and McGill, and covers arrangements such as lease space and the collection of student fees.
McGill requires that Independent Student Groups hold a referendum once every five years. To be declared valid, voter turnout during the referendum must reach five per cent of the DPS’s members (all graduate and undergraduate students at McGill). Otherwise, the DPS constitution mandates that another referendum must be held before the MoA can be renewed.
According to Faraz Alidina, the DPS’s chief electoral officer, the referendum question underwent a “rigorous tripartite approval process” in order to ensure that the question is “constitutional, interpretable, fair, and appropriate,” and that the administration will accept the results. This means that the DPS Board of Directors, the office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), and Elections DPS have all examined and approved the question.
“The McGill Daily and Le Délit [provide] a forum for students to express their opinions and keep informed of important campus events,” the referendum question reads. “A free and critical press is essential to a vibrant campus society and a healthy democracy.”
Although most student groups run referenda through the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), the DPS decided to run its referendum independently. DPS Chair Sheehan Moore is also the Chair of the “Yes” committee—an official group that campaigns on campus for students to vote in favour of the DPS’s existence.
“Since we’re not a SSMU organization, and since our membership exceeds that of SSMU, it doesn’t make much sense to ask our existence question through them,” Moore said. “The campaign procedures and voting system are very similar to SSMU’s, and there’s the added benefit that we’re able to poll not just undergraduates, but also our graduate student members.”
Although a “No” committee has not been formed to campaign against the referendum, some students oppose the continued existence of the DPS. Greg Frame, U3 arts, said he intends to vote “no” on the referendum.
“I don’t think the McGill Daily, at present, succeeds in starting an earnest conversation between people of different political or philosophical beliefs, [and] regularly compromises nuance in favour of ideological coherence,” he said. “I believe that news is a public good, and absolutely should be publically funded; but the McGill Daily seems much more committed to promoting a political ideology, rather than dispassionately informing the student body and beginning a debate.”
According to Moore, the DPS already makes itself accountable to students by holding annual meetings, which are open to all members of the DPS.
“Existence referenda were created recently by the administration in the name of ‘accountability,’ but in fact, all these do is derail the time and resources of student groups that are already accountable to students,” Moore said.
Frame said he has spoken with people who have been to DPS meetings, but doesn’t think they are the correct venue to voice his concerns.
“There’s a sentiment on the Daily editorial staff—as far as I’ve been able to glean—that makes the articulation of a broader viewpoint very difficult,” he said. “It’s not something that can be changed at a meeting.”
Students can vote using an online voting system. The link will be sent out on Jan. 23.